“What could be better than plunging down a rocky slope on a bike at 60km/h? Gawping at the lovely Ms Gudex - the best thing to happen to bikes since Spokey-dokeys...”
She’s fast, fearless and one of the best downhill mountain bikers in the land. Men, please rise for the gorgeous and downright delightful Niki Gudex...
At some stage in his life, every man will attempt to do a jump off a pile of dirt on his battered Malvern Star. And the vast majority will ruin their scrotums upon landing, and swear never to try again. So it inspires some significant respect when Australia’s number one female downhill rider, Niki Gudex, modestly explains that she won her first downhill race - complete with rectum tightening jumps and drop offs - less than a week after she started riding. Potential disfigurement and death are no barrier to our siren of cycling...
What’s downhill riding like? Generally, a downhill race is three to six minutes top to bottom, basically on a mountain track. It’s usually rocky shoots, and drop offs and fast single track...
Don’t you ever worry about taking a stack and ripping your head off? Um, I hate questions like that. Yes and no. I snowboarded for a long time and I had alot of accidents, and you sort of learn how you can prevent them. You learn your limitations, and you learn that you have to build up to things: you can’t just throw yourself off really big jumps, it’s not going to work. You really have to commit to something. You give a bit of thought to what you’re going to do. When I was younger I used to skateboard as well, and you think you are invincible and then you realise that you’re not. I really like to ride under control.
What’s the biggest stack you’ve ever had? Probably while snowboarding.
But isn’t snow nice and soft to land on? It depends. Not in Australia it’s not. I fractured the T4 and T5 (vertebrae) in my back. I was living in Sweden at the time, in snowboarding school. When I came back to Australia I decided I was going to get fit, so I decided I’d get a bike. So I got it, and entered a race. That was three years ago.
How long after you bought the bike did you start racing? Four or five days.
Four or five days! Crazy talk. I didn’t know anything about mountain biking and I didn’t know where any tracks were, so I went into a bike shop and I found that there was a race on that weekend. I thought it would be a good way to find out where the tracks are.
And how did you go? Ummm... My first downhill race, I won, ha ha. But it was in my category!
What attracts you to mountain biking? I think it’s a mixture of everything. When you’re on a bike you’re focused but you’re relaxed. It takes you away. You can be wherever you want to be on a bike. In your own space. I like racing because you don’t have time to think about anything, you just have to commit to what you’re doing.
Do you still snowboard, or skate? No, I’m too old to skateboard. It’s too dangerous. Concrete is not forgiving.
What, at the decrepit age of 23? Well, you wear body armour when you’re downhill racing. So really, it’s a lot safer. You’ve got a helmet on, and leg armour. It’s not like you’re unprepared.
What are your biggest triumphs so far? My best result on paper would be winning the 2001 national series. But my favourite result would be getting second at the national championships, because it was a very strong field in that particular race, and at the time I’d only been racing for two years.
What about international racing? I rode in the world championships, in Vail, in the USA.
And how did you go over there? I came 21st.
Result! What’s your training like? It can be really hard training on the road. Some people don’t seem to realise that a cyclist is actually a person. If you see a cyclist on the road, give way to them. Too many cyclists get hit on the road.
So, do you ride motorbikes as well? Yeah, I’ve ridden a motorbike twice. The first time I did a wheelie for about 20 metres. I’d been on it for about 20 minutes, I had it in second gear, and I just gave it a little bit too much, and the front wheel just popped up. My friend was sitting behind me, and I was thinking, “Wow, I’m doing a wheelie”, and I didn’t actually realise that if it falls back it’s quite dangerous. But then I noticed, “Oh, everyone looks really scared.” So I slowed down and it came back down, and my friend was like, “Slow down, let me jump off... I think you’re okay to ride by yourself now.”
Profile: Tim Keen. Photographer: Jez Smith. "Speed Demon" - FHM magazine, April 2002 Issue.